Plattner, Karl Friedrich

views updated


(b. Klein-Waltersdorf bei Freiberg, Germany, 2 January 1800; d. Freiberg, Germany, 22 January 1858)


From 1817 to 1820 Platter studied at the Königliche Bergakademie, Freiberg. He then entered the metallurgical industry, where he gained rapid promotion and acquired a great reputation as an assayer and analyst. He specialized in the use of the blowpipe, which had became a highly versatile and qualitative instrument in many hands, from Gahn to Berzelius. Platter perfected the quantitative use of the blowpipe and in 1835 published a treatise (translated into several languages) on its use.

Platter’ blowpipe techniques were grounded in an understanding of chemical reactions which he utilized in his later work (1856) on smelting. At the age of thirty-eight he left Freiberg for Berlin in order to work for a year with Heinrich Rose. Upon his return to Freiberg in 1840, he was appointed to a senior assaying post and then to a chair of metallurgy. Pursuing the chemistry of smelting, he sought to solve the problem (as much a pollution problem as a technical one) of the efficient conversion to sulfuric acid of the sulfur dioxide produced from sulfide ores. Conversion by the chamber process was not difficult in principle, but the necessary, massive structures were so difficult to accommodate in a smelting plant that a simpler process was desirable. Contact catalysis was known (Peregrine Phillips patented his method in 1831) but not perfected. Plattner carried out many experiments, but his work was impeded by failing health and eventually cut short by his death in 1858. He had laid the foundation of the success achieved in 1875 by his colleague at Freiberg, Clemens Winkler.


On Plattner’s life and work, see I. Westermann, “Aus Plattners Leben und Werken,” in Metall und Erz, 30 (1933), 101–103, with portrait.

His works include Die Probirkunst mit dem Lötrohre(Leipzig, 1835); The Use of the Blowpipe in the Examination of Minerals, Ores, Furnace Products and Other Metallic Combinations, J. S. Muspratt, trans. (London, 1845), with a preface by Liebig and notes; and Die metallurgischen Röstprozesse(Freiberg, 1856). See also Poggendorff, II (Leipzig, 1863), col. 469.

Frank Greenaway